Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Division Viol

School of Tielke
ca. 1720
Wood, ivory, tortoise shell
Body length: 64.7 cm. Body width: upper bout 29.1 cm. center bout 22.3 cm. lower bout 36.2 cm. Rib height: top block 7.7 cm. center bout 11.9 cm. bottom block 11.9 cm String length: 61.0 cm.
Credit Line:
The Crosby Brown Collection of Musical Instruments, 1889
Accession Number:
Not on view
Slightly smaller than the bass viola da gamba, the division viol is an instrument ideal for playing improvised variations (or "divisions") upon a repeated bassline, or ground. Division viols grew in popularity in England in the seventeenth century alongside publications of methodical treatises, such as Christopher Simpson's The Division Viol of 1665 and The Division-Violist of 1669, as well as John Playford's A Brief Introduction of 1667. Because of its large compass and range of over three octaves, the instrument allowed accomplished performers to play polyphonic compositions and rapid passagework, but was also ideal for informal consort playing.

In its original condition, this viol's six strings would have been tuned to D–G–c–e–a–d', but its alterations—its modern German 'cello neck and pegbox, a reduction to four strings, and its coat of transparent red-orange varnish—indicate that at one time it was used as a 'cello, as many such instruments were. Despite this, the seven-grained spruce table, one-piece bird's eye maple back and ribs, double purfling, and rosette of inlaid tortoiseshell are excellent examples of Tielke's workmanship and influence on viol making.
Mary Elizabeth Adams Brown
Laurence Libin. A Checklist of Viole da Gamba (Viols). 2. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1989, pg. 17, ill.

Forgotten Instruments: Exhibition Catalogue of the Katonah Gallery. Exhibition catalogue., Katonah, New York, 1981, pg. 22, ill.

Joachim Tielke: Ein Hamburger Lauten - Und Violenmacher Der Barockziet. Verlag Das Musikinstrument. Frankfurt, 1980, pg. 212.

William L. Monical. A Checklist of Viole da Gamba (Viols). The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1979, pg. 12-13, ill.

Written by, Honorary Editor Eric Halfpenny. "Joachim Tielke." The Galpin Society Journal (1964), vol. XVII, pg. 34.

Catalogue of the Crosby Brown Collection of Musical Instruments: Europe. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1904, vol. I, pg. 66.

Catalogue of the Crosby Brown Collection of Musical Instruments of All Nations: I. Europe, Galleries 25 and 26, Central Cases of Galleries 27 and 28. Catalogue., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, vol. 13, pg. 66.

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